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  • Posted by: Ilan Beesen on Tuesday, May 6 2014 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

    Brand Mashups

    To keep customers on their toes, brands have to figure out how to create unexpected connections. For some, that means exploring new ways to collaborate with others to create the never-before-seen. 

    The decision to pursue one type of partnership or another is definitely a strategic one. Think Intel chips in Dell computers—one brand lending a key capability to another. Of course, most co-branding/ingredient/sponsorship relationships feature one brand in support of the other. Attribution? Often unequal.

    But what happens when two brands meet each other as equals? They create something different. Unique. That’s the brand mash-up, and it’s sometimes expressed as Brand x Brand, or Brand + Brand.

    That naming convention suggests more than just one brand helping another. It’s the mingling of two different forces and promises—even industries—to create something that’s neither one nor the other—the unexpected third.

    It’s not totally new, but it’s still on the fringes—practiced by the most inventive. The Stussy x Nike mash-up pairs two very different styles and design sensibilities to produce shoes that are not entirely Nike or Stussy.

    Nike has been at it for a while, in fact. It was Nike + iPod in the early days that later produced the brilliant Nike+ set of products. This was the perfect marriage of design, tech, apparel, and fitness. Other notables include, M.I.A x Versus, Adidas x Opening Ceremony. Even retail stores like Target + Neiman Marcus are getting in the mix.

    While most mash-ups involve CPG and/or retail, GE is a notable exception. GE + Quirky pairs the resources of GE with the grassroots inventors of Quirky. The mix creates fun, jointly produced products that people wouldn’t expect from GE.

    Bloggers are getting in on the side-by-side game. Take Google x Berg for instance. This experimental collaboration may take Google out of the digital and into the real world. The key word being, “experimental.” The essence of the mash-up is nobody knows exactly what to expect.  

    We’re on the lookout for the next unexpected mash-up that will change the way we look at some of our favorite brands. What’s your dream mash-up? What would it change?

    Ilan Beesen is a Senior Consultant at Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Interbrand on Monday, March 31 2014 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

    Crowdsourcing names sounds appealing: companies can get responses very quickly and cheaply. “Namesourcing” has become so popular it has sprouted a bevy of businesses dedicated to the practice. Beneath the appeal of namesourcing’s quick, cheap turnaround (with a dash of consumer engagement) lies its biggest limitation for brands—the wisdom of the crowd doesn’t extend to deep category and business expertise.

    There’s no lack of success stories around crowdsourced innovation and technology. When AB-InBev wanted to develop a brand more attuned to craft beer tastes, it turned to the crowd. The result? Black Crown. And brands like Lego, General Mills and MWV have devoted entire platforms to crowdsourcing initiatives. But crowdsourcing for names can be tricky—or even foolhardy. Imagine if you let the internet name your firstborn. The results might be disappointing, to say the least.

    Crowds are, by definition, loose and disparate. When a brand puts the crowd at the controls for naming, it won’t necessarily get back names that reflect the brand’s positioning or tone of voice. For the crowd, quality and consistency are not always priorities. Aussie web designer Dean Robbins was actually kidding when he suggested iSnack 2.0 as a new moniker for Kraft’s Vegemite—yet the name he coined won. And when Mountain Dew asked consumers to “Dub the Dew” for its apple-flavored offering in 2012, hackers eagerly nominated names like Diabeetus and Gushing Granny.

    Crowdsourcing has the most value as an engagement tool that invites customers to start conversations, share ideas, and feel like they’re being listened to and appreciated. To do that right, a thoughtful plan should trump result. Crowdsourced names might make a temporary splash on social media; some might even end up on a real shelf—but the truth is, companies rarely view or treat crowdsourced names as long-term investments. The stories and campaigns that sit behind them—the stories brands can tell about inviting participation—is where the heart beats.

    Try to think of a crowdsourced name that isn’t on your radar because it was attached to an #epicfail. iSnack 2.0 is the granddaddy of them all, but it’s five years old. And the Gushing Granny disaster is 21 in dog years. But chances are, you’ve engaged with at least one campaign on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed in recent memory. There’s Lay’s Do Us a Flavor, Dunkin’ Donuts Next Donut, Sam Adams’ LongShot American Homebrew, and Mountain Dew’s DEWmocracy. What do these have in common (and why have some of them even thrived as global annual campaigns)? They’re inviting you to engage.

    So, go ahead—name a chip Benedict Cumberbatch, and crack a smile the next time you see a Lay’s bag at the deli.

    Paula Pou is Associate Director, Verbal Identity, Interbrand New York.

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  • Posted by: Fell Gray on Thursday, February 13 2014 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

    Aviage Systems
    Best Asian Brands

    A 玫瑰 by any other name

    It’s the start of a new year in China, and the astrologists tell us that the Year of the Horse has the potential to be more successful than last year, but it will require patience and perseverance. And for any brand looking to launch a Chinese brand name this year (or any other), these are words to live by.

    While the appeal of the Chinese market is clear to most, the need for a Chinese name may not be. Given that the average Chinese consumer doesn’t speak English and sees Roman characters as graphic elements, a Chinese name is important just to break through. But there are a host of other reasons: a cultural desire to protect and preserve the Chinese language, marketing support necessary to educate consumers on the English name, and government requirements (e.g., audible Chinese for all TV advertising), to name a few.

    When you do jump into Chinese name development, brace yourself for the realities of the screening process. There are 6.27M active trademarks and more than 600,000 filed each year. And China follows a first-to-file not a first-to-use system, so registration can be a bit of a land grab. Beyond that are language and cultural considerations for a successful name: tonality, harmony checks, dialects, simplified vs traditional characters…. As I said: patience and perseverance.

    Then, Then Again, Now

    To get to the right names, you’ll have a range of creative strategies at your disposal: creation, translation, literation, and transliteration. The right choice lies in determining the importance of meaning vs. sounding the same as your existing name. Elevating the importance of meaning in Chinese over the sound will aid memorability and recall. And a name that sounds similar will strengthen the connection to the international name and its brand equity. Some brands manage to find an equal balance through transliteration (well done, Coke), but many make the decision to pick one over the other. Nike chose a name that sounds identical to the English and means “enduring and preserving,” while Citibank chose a name that sounds different but means star spangled banner bank. All are valid options, depending on your goals.

    Whatever your approach, one of the most important things to remember when evaluating your options is: don’t hear with an English ear. The right word in English is not necessarily the right word in Chinese. Pairings of characters can change meaning significantly, so you can’t look at characters individually. And you can’t underestimate the importance of symbols in Chinese culture, so be sure you are looking at all the layers of meaning the name provides.

    This week's guest author, Fell Gray, is Senior Director of Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York. She is also the practice leader for Brand Voice.

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  • Posted by: Caitlin Barrett on Thursday, January 23 2014 10:58 AM | Comments (0)


    The great and the groan-worthy: 2013 names in review

    January is a time of reflection for Interbrand New York’s Verbal Identity team. Every year, we resolve to learn from the best—and worst—of the previous 12 months. From a spotlight on simplicity to a procession of oh-no-they-didn’t “faux-nuts,” 2013 gave us plenty to ponder.

    Let’s start with the great:

    Bucking the notion that technology needs to sound, well, techie, Google Glass (and others, like last year’s Microsoft Surface) lets consumers attribute the techie-ness to the product, instead using the name to redefine what we think of the form factor. We hope to see more of this in 2014 as technology moves into wearables and everyday items.

    The beauty of the Waze app showed us the way to name this year, giving the GPS category (and new owner) a beacon of ease and effortlessness.

    Vocativ brought us back to bold, and reinforced the notion that a brand is only as strong as its willingness to live up to its name. Vocativ came out of the gate strong with an in-your-face-mission to discover the stories other news organizations miss.

    Google’s Project Loon was another winner—a network of balloons sent to the edge of space to expand Internet coverage. Loon conjures an image of a flock of birds and references balloons, but it’s also a playful nod to the reaction one might get when pitching the concept of sending balloons into space.

    Amazon introduced its corporate citizenship program, AmazonSmile. As we noted, Corporate Citizenship naming is becoming more personal, more tied to a brand’s role in the world. A reference to Amazon’s smiling logo, the name expands the definition of the joy the company is able to deliver.

    And end with the groans:

    Last year gave us the VagX Lumisac. This year, Fukuppy was placed on our doorstep. We always say that even when it’s local, it’s global—skip your linguistic disaster check, and worldwide laughter might ensue.

    (Technically, Kat Von D’s Celebutard lipstick should have been number one, but we didn’t feel a name this bad deserved any special honors.)

    The promise of Maybelline Baby Lips is fantastic—baby-soft is an adjective we’re all OK with. But something about seeing it in noun form gives us a case of the uncomfortables—it sounds like Maybelline is selling actual baby lips.

    Sort-a-neat Laundry Basket. We’ll file this under so clever it makes itself sound mediocre.

    The team here is torn about the name Cronut: on one hand, it doesn’t sound the least bit delicious (“Crone Nuts? Gross.”) but it is a terrifically functional name (“Oh, it’s a hybrid croissant-donut? I get it.”). What the verbal identity team can agree on is that some of the worst names of the year were attached to the me-too pastries that tried to ride Cronut’s sweet, sweet coattails. We saw the rapid genericide of the term as “cro-nuts” were sold across the country. We saw scone-donut hybrids called Sconuts, a crazy cronut called the Craynut, the maybe-Kardashian-inspired Kronut Krullers, an ooh-la-la version called Doughsánts, the barely-making-it-a-different thing Croughnuts, and the grossest of the lot, Crumbnuts. One ripoff we can respect? Croissant Doughnuts. Gregory’s Coffee, we salute you for calling it like you see it.

    The Yoga tablet from Lenovo, while not an outright disaster, awkwardly attributes an age-old spiritual practice to a tech device. It's meant to reference the flexibility of the device, but the spiritual perspective feels like a big promise for a device that’s only breakthrough is in its form factor.

    Android released a phone in early 2013 and named it the HTC First. Then it released the HTC One—a more advanced phone. While versioning is always tough, we’re having a hard time imagining customers understanding why they’re better off going from First to One. (We’ve also heard rumblings that an HTC One 2 will be released in 2014…)

    And we’ll end this party with a name that would ruin any party: Tyson’s Any’tizers Wyngz. We might have turned a blind eye to the Any’tizers line of snacks, but when we noticed an asterisk next to Wyngz calling out that they contained no actual chicken wing meat? It’s hard for consumers to trust brands when their names become shorthand for “not what it sounds like.”

    2014 promises to bring more delights and disasters—and we’ll learn our lesson from every last one.

    This week's guest author, Caitlin Barrett, is a Director of Verbal Identity for Interbrand and the creative lead for Naming.

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  • Posted by: Caitlin Barrett on Friday, December 6 2013 10:12 AM | Comments (0)

    Microsoft Advertising
    Give your name a voice

    When your name says it all

    Hurdly. Find.ly. Reachli. Optimizely. Earlier in the year, The Wall Street Journal diagnosed Silicon Valley’s me-too naming problem: It turns out the default way to signal “quirky start-up” is to end your name with “ly,” “lee” or “li” (as 161 already have).

    While established brands often look to convention-breaking startups for naming approaches that signal “new,” the current gaggle of double consonant-ed and lyrically suffixed names aren’t much help right now. Which is what makes an often-overlooked naming approach look really good right now: the descriptive name.

    Names like Booking.com and Dollar Shave Club skip the misspellings. They skip the optimistic metaphors and references to the founders’ backstories and the weird-for-the-sake-of-weird imagery. Instead, they use their name to get a very important question off the table, “What does this business do?”

    The Then Again Now

    The obvious objection to this approach to naming is that it’s boring, and that, from a trademark perspective, it’s difficult to own. But smart brands know there’s more than one way to build distinctiveness into their names.

    Booking.com adds edge to its name by subbing “booking” for the type of swear word you’d use when you get a room that really blows you away. It made booking a feeling, rather than an action. Have you seen Booking.com's commercials? They’re booking awesome. And the brand used its voice to make Booking.com a name that’s pretty booking exciting (see how fun it is?).

    Dollar Shave Club, too, skips the fluff. Its subscription business model and message are simple (“For a dollar a month we send high-quality razors right to your door”), and its name doesn’t say much more than that. And through a video featuring the founder’s dry humor against a backdrop of absurd imagery, the brand took off—and the name took on the idiosyncratic tone set in the video.

    While there’s no single “best” kind of name, it’s refreshing to see an often underutilized naming approach made a hero in the most heroic sense. It also forces brands to be crystal clear about who they are and what they do—something the Zaarlys, Xtifys, and Kaggles of the world will have to do through some pretty serious messaging.

    This week's guest author, Caitlin Barrett, is Associate Director of Verbal Identity for Interbrand and the creative lead for Naming.

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